I’m nearing the end of my vampire-trapped-on-a-tropical-island manuscript and I wanted to give you a little sneak peek of Jareth. He’s the world’s grumpiest vampire who gets knocked ass over fangs when he bumps into a hot stranger on his beach.
Just as I raised the cocktail to my lips, the ocean winds tossed aside a curtain. Striding with purpose appeared the man from my beach. He wore a flowing white shirt unbuttoned and free to caress his sculpted frame, a pair of linen trousers and nothing on his feet. Dangling from his neck was the shell he’d found in my sand, the little conch bouncing between his dangerously curvy pecs.
Merciful… My hands tipped, and so too went the coconut drink, splattering bright pink juice all over my black pants and vest. Cursing myself, I stepped back as my senses overloaded with pinkness when I felt a pair of turquoise eyes landing on me.
Shit! On instinct, I transformed into a bat and flapped deeper into the darkness. The man stared where I’d been, his brow scrunched up as if he wasn’t certain he saw what he did. Or, perhaps he’d wanted to see more. Why didn’t I talk to him? At least say hello.
How did one do that? Merely march over to a stranger and begin idle conversation. That was lunacy.
This golden god of sand and waves walked closer and I hovered in the shadows above him. His white hair swept and swirled across his head like the errant surf crashing into rocks. His shoulders were so wide, I could perch upon them in my bat form. I should greet him, or perhaps land near and see if he’d deign to touch me.
The moment I made my decision, a flock of people appeared and threw their arms around him. He fell into his friends with a laugh, the massive group slipping away along with the memory of the strange man who vanished from his mind. Foolish. I waited too long. I needed to stop hesitating. Even if I’d acted, no doubt he would have panicked at the site of a bat becoming a man.
The proper action would be to return to the house, to curl up in my coffin and wait for another night to hunt. It was certainly uncouth for a learned gentleman such as myself to gaze in wonder at the man slipping off down the boardwalk. Never mind the crassness to note how tightly his thin trousers sculpted to the backside as he swayed his hips with the music. Only a brigand would stalk the man, a complete stranger, as he vanished into the throngs with his friends.
I flapped my wings and followed after my beautiful stranger.
Every step he took, people greeted him with a warm smile or touch while I fumbled about the thatched roofs of cabana bars. He’d openly wrap his arms around anyone that said hello, his entire being radiating a warmth that startled me. I feared if I drew too close, it’d throw a spotlight onto the cold and distant creature hovering near his aura. But much like the fire twirling in the hearth, I could not turn away either.
The group moved farther from the pulsating crowds to one of the reclining couches dug into the sand. I couldn’t hear them over the pounding music, only the bob of his white hair cresting against the black waves gave me any hint that he’d stopped to rest. Taking wing, I flapped higher into the muggy air, my tiny bat lungs straining to pull in a breath.
A single torch burned between the gathered group, landing golden highlights across his raised cheeks and chin. Only the shadow of a palm tree brushed against his sunny hue. I tucked my wings in and went for a landing on the drooping branch. When my little claws caught, I inverted, tucking my wings safely up and calming my breaths.
No one screamed about the overly large bat attempting to eavesdrop, so there was little reason for my still heart to ache so. Tan fingers rifled through the white curls, tossing them aside and all I could do was stare in wonder.
“The guy was a freak.” One of the others sitting near him spoke up, so inebriated he sloshed his drink over the sides while doing do. “Looked like a cannibalistic beekeeper in that getup. I was dead certain we weren’t gonna make it out alive.”
They were discussing me. Wonderful.
“How did you?” the girl next to him inquired, as if he’d escaped from some nefarious trial of wit and strength instead of being politely asked to cease trespassing.
The man stuck his chest out and I bristled at the yarns he’d spin, but the beautiful stranger said, “We walked away. Then got some snacks. You can never go wrong with a kebab.”
A few chuckled as if he’d said the greatest joke in the world, but the man who needed lies to achieve coitus huffed. “Lake’s being humble. The dumbass actually spoke to the cannibal ghost.”
His name was truly Lake? The laziness of parents in this century. I twisted my tiny bat head as if I had the audience instead of the beach man.
He picked up a long glass shaped like a flamingo and used the beak to scratch his head. “I did?”
Of course he wouldn’t remember me, what was there to remember? Aside from the screeching, the long white robes, and the fact the rest of the beach believed me to be a cannibal. Which, given the alcoholic content of their blood, was surprisingly close to the truth. Perhaps it would be in my best interest to drink from these fools before they spread their falsehoods further.
“Wait, do you mean the guy at the beach where I found my shell?” Lake asked, cupping his necklace to inspect it closer.
“Only Lake could miss the serial killer for a bit of beach trash.”
He lay the shell flat to his chest, a challenging feat given the terrain of his muscles. “I think they’re pretty and the beach is full of them—like little gifts from Poseidon to remind everyone where the sea is.”
The others all chuckled at his response, but I crawled higher up the branch. It caused my body to bend lower, the palm tree sweeping in the breeze while I stared in wonder at this lively man. Idiotic name aside, I couldn’t look in any other direction. He sat as if pleased, feeling not the stickiness of the humidity, the stench of alcohol both entering and leaving the body. As if the world was his oyster, yet he didn’t care about the pearl or even opening it. He only needed the pretty shell to be happy.
An unexplainable urge overcame me to roll around in his cascades of hair. To feel his thumbs gently brush down the fur of the bat’s stomach as he held me safe. I inched closer to him, the bounce of the branch flinging me about like the flag of a contested castle.
“Lake.” One of the women held out her hands. “Come dance with me.”
“Okay.” His smile chased away the pain of him dancing with anyone else. “Oh, let me finish this first.” He half stood and reached for his flamingo drink. Tipping it back, most of the pink liquid slipped into his wide mouth, but a single drop slithered down the front of his throat. I traced its path bumping over the muscles before landing right beside his pulsing jugular.
I ached to puncture my fangs astride that pink stain, to draw my tongue down the fruity trail and feel him melt in my arms. To knot his hair in my hands and pull his head back until his lips gleamed up at me and…
The tiny bat legs shot out to grown man sized and the wings whipped around to useless arms from my wandering mind. I lost all grip to the branch, sending me falling face first into the sand. “Shii—” I shouted before hitting the beach nose and mouth first.
A loud whumph shattered the night air as the rest of my body tumbled onto my back leaving me staring up at the stars. The pain was negligible to the burning shame washing over me. I hadn’t lost control of my bat form in nearly two hundred years. That only happened to very young and inexperienced vampires. What was wrong with me?
“Are you okay?”
A dangerously handsome face with a dribble of pink juice down the neck filled my vision. I flailed. There is no better way to describe my limbs wafting about the sand as if I could swim my way to my feet. Sand erupted from my panic, dousing my clothing even more and sending the grains falling down my backside. All it did was dig me deeper into the ground forced to stare in unending embarrassment at the bemused turquoise eyes.
“Hi,” he said and extended a hand.
Don’t take it.
I knew my mouth was open because sand fell from my shaking hair into it. But I couldn’t think or breathe—which didn’t matter as I was already dead. He leaned over, wrapped his fingers around mine, slipped his thumb over the back of my hand, and held tight. With ease, he pulled me up off the sand, and rested his other hand on my shoulder.
“Did you hit your head?”
He pointed to his own as if I could stare at anything else. Devil take me, but up close the man was heartbreakingly beautiful. Every feature on his perfect visage was set to induce a smile. His eyes crinkled at the side, his cheeks bulged atop his risen cheek bones. And his lips, even as they pursed in concern at my idiocy, were tweaked just on the side. I felt my own tugging at the sight of them.
He thinks you’re an imbecile. “Yeah…yes,” I coughed out, my voice pitched high and squeaky. Coughing once more, I managed a more menacing. “Yes. I can speak.”
“That’s great!” he thundered and slapped me on the shoulder. I could have withstood the blow if my legs weren’t buckling from his presence. His touch sent me tumbling closer to him, my arm brushing against his and—for a brief second—my elbow bounced against his naked chest.
“Jareth! My name is Jareth Hale…Lord.”
“I’m Laiken,” he announced and I nearly exhaled in jubilation his given name was not Lake.